Since joining the Hammers academy aged 14, after being released by Chelsea themselves, and making his debut on the final day of the 2016/17 season, Rice has gone from strength to strength.
Now an established England international, Rice has become an essential piece in West Ham’s jigsaw, and the £60-70m price tag the Hammers’ hierarchy have placed on his head highlights the importance of Rice within the West Ham set-up.
Gareth Southgate’s preferred No. 6, Rice has nine international caps to his name, and whether or not he gets the move to the club he supports, Chelsea, he will most likely be a key figure in England’s Euro 2020 campaign.
Capable of playing at centre-half as well as the central midfield role he has occupied for both club and country over the past few years, Rice has reportedly been a target for Chelsea all summer.
The Blues’ spending spree has seen the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell, to name a few, arrive at Stamford Bridge this summer, but with less than a week left of the transfer window, they will have to act fast if they want to add Rice as well.
Rice’s Underlying Numbers
Integral in West Ham’s struggles last campaign, Rice’s ability to dictate play became far more evident than in 2018/19, and his match intelligence came on leaps and bounds.
His pass accuracy went up from 82% to 87%, final third passes P90 increased from 8.2 to 10.6, and his dribbles P90 improved from 0.8 to 1.3.
These have all increased further in the three matches so far of the 2020/21, and it’s this progression that has seen him linked with the biggest clubs in England.
Whilst Rice’s ball-playing ability has improved hugely, it’s still his defensive nous that impresses the most.
Rice’s 2.3 interceptions P90 this season far exceeds the man he’d likely replace in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1, Mateo Kovacic’s 0.7 P90.
Although in very limited minutes, Rice’s 2.3 dribbles P90 in 2020/21 also betters Kovacic’s 0.7.
Now, Kovacic was far superior last season in this regard(3.3 to 1.3 P90), but it does highlight that Rice is more than capable of slotting alongside N’Golo Kante, and allowing the likes of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech to showcase their magic further forward.
Rice’s numbers don’t even tell the full story; his leadership at such a young age is astounding, and in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with West Brom, his presence may well have prevented the humiliation of the Blues’ first half display.
Ethan Ampadu’s Presence
Ampadu’s loan to RB Leipzig last campaign was one that excited many Blues fans, but it ultimately ended in utter disappointment.
The route from England to Germany has been well-trodden by British youngsters over the past few seasons, with Jadon Sancho’s move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 paving the way.
Ademola Lookman, Reece Oxford, Reiss Nelson and Jojoe Kenny, among others, have all ventured to Germany on loan in recent years, and Ethan Ampadu became the latest British teenager to venture across Europe when he joined Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig last season.
Both Nagelsmann and Leipzig themselves have been known for providing exciting talents with an opportunity in the first-team, despite their lack of experience.
However, Ampadu was unfortunately not given the same opportunity as predecessors, managing to accumulate just 277 minutes of football in all competitions in 2019/20, and not registering a single Bundesliga start all campaign.
Widely regarded as one of the brightest young stars at Stamford Bridge, this loan move was intended to expand Ampadu’s knowledge of the game, and provide him with sufficient minutes to help develop as a player.
Neither of these have come to fruition, and despite the Welshman insisting he has “no regrets” over the loan move, you can’t help but wonder whether he could’ve established himself in Lampard’s plans if he’d stayed at Chelsea.
Ampadu’s loan move to Sheffield United for the 2020/21 season once again looks good on paper, but the vital question is: will he start for the Blades?
With Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell a fully established back three, Wilder may well bide his time before sufficiently introducing Ampadu into the starting XI, something that the youngster can ill afford at this stage in his career.
Ampadu’s ability to play at centre-half as well as central midfield is akin to Declan Rice, and by prying Rice from West Ham, Ampadu’s chances of ever being a regular at Stamford Bridge will diminish even further.
Do Chelsea need Rice? The short answer is no. But would he improve their squad? Most definitely.
His leadership, attitude and ability, as well as his positional versatility, would add immeasurable value to Lampard’s ranks, and could well be exactly what Chelsea need to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
Whether or not the Blues’ board decides to splash the £60m, or so, that it would cost to pry Rice away from the Hammers is yet to be seen, but if they do, then a title challenge could well be on the cards.